June 27, 2006

Former astronaut takes over US space command

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gen. Kevin Chilton, the first
astronaut to earn the rank of four-star general, has taken over
as head of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, the Air Force
announced on Tuesday.

Former astronaut Chilton succeeded Gen. Lance Lord, who
retired on April 1.

Air Force Space Command manages the nation's Minuteman
intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as many critical
satellite systems.

Chilton said he was excited to lead a joint team of some
40,000 employees, including military, civilians and private
contractors, who are responsible for development, acquisition
and operation of U.S. Air Force space and missile systems.

Chilton graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1976
and has logged more than 5,000 flight hours. He joined NASA in
1987, flying three space shuttle missions and later serving as
deputy program manager for the International Space Station.